According to a recent scientific study, many of the viruses that caused some of the world’s most serious health risk outbreaks were transmitted from wild animals to humans.

These include Hendra, Nipah, SARS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19), according to Seng Teak, country director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Cambodia.

“Therefore, don’t consume bush meat. People should avoid trapping, hunting or transporting wild animals because there is no way of knowing what viruses it may be carrying. Eating it may be even more problematic,” he said during the April 22 launch of the zero-snaring campaign phase II by the Ministry of Environment in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district.

Citing the report, he said that about 60 per cent of the infectious disease that occurred were similar to or more severe than Covid-19. Over 75 per cent of the newest viruses that had infected humans over the past 30 years came from animals.

He continued that several respiratory viruses had been reported in the past, such as the Hendra outbreak, which occurred in Australia in 1994. Scientists believed that it had been transmitted from bats to horses and then to humans.

“The Nipah outbreak that appeared in Malaysia in 1998 spread to five other Asian countries. It likely jumped from bats to pigs and then humans,” he said.

“SARS occurred from 2002 to 2003 and spread to more than 25 countries. The virus was suspected to have originated from bats and transmitted to musk cats and then humans. MERS occurred in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and spread to nearly 30 countries. The virus was suspected to have been transmitted from bats to camels and from camels to humans,” he added.

The organisation said that Ebola had posted a serious risk to human health. It occurred in 2014 and spread to six countries. HIV occurred in 1981. In addition, there were African swine fever, bird flu and Covid-19.

“Many of these diseases are believed to have been transmitted from wild animals. In addition to killing people, they strongly affected the global economy, especially the tourist sector. They also placed undue strain on public health systems and created an array of social issues, most notably in terms of mental health,” added Teak.

He said that to prevent further outbreaks of such diseases, people must participate in the care of wildlife and forests without encroaching on forest land or wildlife sanctuaries. They must let wild animals live in these areas, lest people could suffer the consequences of other infections that could pose a threat to public health around the world.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said that wildlife plays an important role in ensuring the sustainability of food for the population, while biodiversity plays an important role in making the planet greener.

He explained that the zero-snaring campaign was launched by the ministry and partner organisations to increase people’s awareness so they will take a more active part in reducing the snaring and hunting of animals.

“What we need to do is change the attitude of the public. Consuming bush meat poses a serious risk to human health, as wild animals may carry a variety of viruses. Some people believed that the consumption of bush meat could cure some illnesses, but these claims have been disproven,” he said.

“We need the participation of members of the public from all walks of life, including those who report snaring and wildlife trading and the owners of restaurants. Everyone has an important role to play in reducing snaring and creating safe habitats for humans and wildlife,” he said.

The first phase of the zero snaring campaign began and ended in 2022, with more than 30,000 snares collected. The number indicated a drop by half of the number of snares discovered. In previous years, more than 60,000 snares and traps were discovered annually.